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Stratagem by Jacques Vallee

I have a deep interest in UFO’s.  Gearing up to write the book I’m currently working on (which I’m going to self-publish) I read a lot about the UFO phenomenon.  It amazed me that something with such profound implications is not taken seriously.  “What if” is enough of a reason to pay attention to the phenomenon, regardless of the amount of physical evidence.  And there are a lot of credible witnesses – many more than are given mainstream attention.

In a way, the UFO phenomenon is similar to self-publishing.  Because there is such a drastic amount of less-than-credible material being put out, this tends to overshadow the most interesting work that’s been done.  One of the most credible – and sober – researchers of the phenomenon is Jacques Vallee.  He was the basis of Francois Truffaut’s character in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

I’ve read several non-fiction books by Jacques Vallee.  His collection of journals is one of the best books I’ve ever read  – a great manifesto aimed at science to take greater chances.  His Dimensions and Passport to Magonia are important in that they treat the UFO phenomena as something beyond an alien in a spaceship visiting us from far away.  In truth, UFO’s could be just about anything: from the future, from another dimension, a Jungian projection of our consciousness, the list goes on.  It’s a big – and very old – universe.  To write off this phenomena is basically to state that you understand every facet of the universe: you don’t.

Here’s a brief clip of an interview:

I’ve read Jacques Vallee’s fiction as well – in addition to other fiction in the genre.  Though “Close Encounters” is great, the fictional treatment of this subject is fairly sub-par.  There haven’t been too many writers to treat this subject seriously.  I’ve had to dig pretty far to find UFO fiction.  For instance, I’ve read a novel called Alien Log, the title which describes the quality of the book.  Actually it was a pretty lightweight page turner, along the lines of the Area 51 novels – entertaining, but empty, like “Independence Day.”

My hope for Jacques Vallee’s novels was that he would treat the subject with the same seriousness as his non-fiction works.  Unfortunately, his fictional works just aren’t very good.  They’re not overly sensational, just not very well-conceived.  I couldn’t even get through Fastwalker – it read like it was thrown together.

Now Jacques Vallee has released a hardcover novel through Lulu.  I was fairly amazed that a writer of his stature and accomplishments would have to self-publish, but it almost seems as if he treats fiction as something to do in his spare time, not something to devote a lot of energy, including its publication.   Vallee’s moved on to working in IT in Northern California and this book promised to be a combination of his work in UFO’s and his work in IT, as it’s centered around the members of a technology start-up who witness a UFO.  All in all, it had the potential to be fascinating.  But it’s not.  Characters are thrown on to the page without fleshing out who they are – so they’re hard to follow – and so the action is fairly wooden.  It covers some of the same ground as his non-fiction, but frankly his non-fiction reads as a better mystery and page-turner than his fiction.

He’s still an excellent writer and if you have any interest in the phenomenon, start with him, but don’t go looking for the same sense of excitement in his novels.

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  • About Henry Baum

    Author of three self-published novels and one traditionally published (Soft Skull Press, Canongate, and Hachette Littératures). Recipient of Best Fiction at the DIY Book Festival, the Gold IPPY Award for Visionary Fiction, and the Hollywood Book Festival Grand Prize. He lives with his wife Cate Baum in Spain. He's the founder of SPR.